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Woodburn football program goes into 2019 with a blank slate coming off stellar '18 season

PMG PHOTO: PHIL HAWKINS - Incoming sophomore Tomas Veliz gives the Bulldogs a reliable receiver who plays above his years, according to head coach Nick Federico.The Woodburn football team is coming off of its best season in recent memory.

Led by a strong senior class combined with a move to the 4A classification, last year's Bulldogs put together a winning 6-4 season, a post-season win over Tillamook and a state playoff berth — all unheard of in the modern era of the program.

But Woodburn head coach Nick Federico wants to make it clear that last year's success belongs to last year's team. There may be many returning faces from the 2018 Bulldogs, but he wants them to know that there is no pressure from the coaching staff to be that team.

"It's a different team," Federico said. "We may have similar kids — and we have a lot of the same kids — but if they don't come together as a team, we're not going to be successful."

That's not to say that the Bulldogs are not setting high expectations for themselves. They simply want 2019 to be its own microcosm, and this year's program is reset, starting from scratch once again and must earn every yard and every win for themselves.

PMG PHOTO: PHIL HAWKINS - Running back and linebacker Gavino Murillo is part of a younger Bulldog core of mostly sophomores and juniors."Their expectation is to do what the senior class did. Our goal is to put two seasons back-to-back. That's our goal is to get back to the playoffs, win that first round — because all those kids were in that locker room and saw the defeat and letdown and felt they should have won.

"Just building off that, they want to continue that program and tradition," Federico said.

Although this year's team saw more than 20 seniors graduate in the spring, leaving the vast majority of its offense in flux, Woodburn does have one trump card in senior running back Dyontae Navarrete.

A key part of the offensive triumvirate that included graduated quarterbacks R.J. Veliz and Nathan Corpuz last year, Navarrete is set to become the focal point of the Woodburn offense this fall.

"He can run you over, outrun you — he can do it all," Federico said. "The focus is just going to be on a different player. We may spread him out, bring him in, we can kind of do both."

Junior Jordan Blem and sophomore Datsun Corpuz will fight for time behind center at quarterback, while senior Ethan Ing, junior Jackson Pickett and sophomore Tomas Veliz are among the corps of receivers that are looking forward to taking advantage of Woodburn's new synthetic turf field this year.

PMG PHOTO: PHIL HAWKINS - Junior Jordan Blem (pictured) and sophomore Datsun Corpuz will battle for the starting quarterback position for the Bulldogs this fall."I loved our grass, the grass was really pretty, but it's a beautiful turf field," Federico said. "I think for us, we're going to play very, very fast."

The Bulldogs have long been led by its speed and athleticism on the outside, and with the new field, Federico is looking forward to seeing just how quick his receivers and running backs can be in the open.

"That's kind of what we pride ourselves on what we do," Federico said. "Some are wide, some are short, some are tall, but we are fast, and we can run with the best of them."

With the investment in the facilities, which includes a new weight room, track surface, fencing, and much more work around the football stadium, Federico wants his players to know that the community cares for its student athletes, and in turn, they're looking forward to turning Friday nights in Woodburn into the biggest party in town.

"People love to be a part of Woodburn football. The atmosphere is going to be a party. It is lined here and is the biggest thing in town," Federico said. "To build off last year, if we can do what we're capable of doing, it's going to double.

"I'm excited," he continued. "I love this time of the year going into fall. The buzz — it sets the tempo for the kids, the school year and the community."PMG PHOTO: PHIL HAWKINS - Senior running back and linebacker Dyontae Navarrete will be the focal point of the offense and defense for the Woodburn football team this fall.

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